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A Long Way to Shiloh
first published 1966 - Booklist

This was the second of Lionel Davidson's big adventure stories and it was also the second win of the prestigious Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger. It was also hot film property.

The book is a kind of "Raiders of the Lost Ark". They both involve a high action race for a magical biblical artefact. In the United States this book was called The Menorah Men - oh dear I've revealed the artefact - The Menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum and centrepiece of the second Jewish Temple of Jerusalem.

This book marked the real beginning of my father's extraordinary infatuation with Israel. It is very hard to pinpoint exactly what the infatuation was - but it was quite extreme, it lasted about eleven years and you couldn't call it Zionism.

As an early teen Lionel Davidson flirted with communism but became disillusioned with it as many of his generation had. During his mid and late teens he would have seen the rise of Hitler and the obvious threat against the Jews. The British stand against Hitler, when it finally came, caused him enormous affection for England and this love and respect remained and is evident in all his books.

In the war he volunteered for the British Submarine Service, one of the most dangerous and claustrophobic jobs available and although he rarely mentioned this period he did tell some terrifying stories of being depth charged by the Japanese in the South China Seas. It was while training for the Submarine Service in Glasgow in 1940 that he met my Mother.

The experience of the war I believe turned him into a Socialist Jewish Nationalist if that term can possibly be understood. I have recently noticed that the State of Israel was formed in May 1948 and he married my mother in June 1948. It must have been a hugely significant year for him. I think he had some wild romantic vision about his life and somewhere in it included Israel. Although the topic of Israel was never apparent during my childhood it must have been quietly fermenting away and it finally exploded with gusto in 1968 when, with very little warning, we moved to Israel.

He started to rant on about Israel till four in the morning, keeping everyone up. He saw it as a major evolutionary step and turning point in the history of mankind. Israel can have various strange effects on people! This holy vision lasted about another eight years and when it finally petered out it must have been hard on him. During this period his next three books all had a Jewish themes yet none of them reflected this fanaticism - he was very professional about them. He mainly wrote these books totally naked in a flat in Jaffa. This was away from our home. He lived two separate lives.

Unfortunately, from my point of view. the family move to Israel in 1968 was rather bad timing. I was entering my O-level year at school in good old swinging London. The Beatles had recorded All You Need Is Love. Fighting some foreign war was not quite my cup of tea at the time. We had a major fallout. I ran away from home.

And my Father went on to write two very touching and poetic books.

A Long Way to Shiloh